President: René Préval (Inauguration scheduled for May 14, 2006) Recent elections:
February 7, 2006 - Presidential and Parliamentary
April 21, 2006 - Parliamentary Run-Off
Title of Project: Political Party Development Dates of project: September 2004 - 2006 Funding source: USAID
Haitians declared their independence from France on January 1, 1804, claiming as their national motto to "live free or die." Though Haiti displayed great democratic promise as the world's first independent black nation, a long succession of authoritarian leaders has left behind a trail of failed governments, suppression and human rights abuses.
After the resignation and departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Haiti was governed by an interim government with a mandate to conduct free and fair elections. In February 2006 elections, Haitians overwhelmingly elected René Préval, who previously served as Haiti's president from 1996-2001.
Today, Haitians are concerned by a lack of security and stability. Haiti's current political atmosphere is divisive and marked by corruption. Not surprisingly, the absence of meaningful dialogue prompts mutual misgivings between and among political parties and their leaders, the government, international institutions, civil society and the general electorate.
Over the past 15 years, IRI has worked to support the Haitian people in their quest for democracy. Today, IRI looks forward to working with Haiti's newly elected government to support democratic values long-demanded by Haitians.
Political Party and Candidate Development
In anticipation of local, municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections in 2006, IRI re-established an office in Haiti in May 2005 and launched a training program designed to support Haiti's current democratic momentum. In addition to working with Haiti's many political parties in support of coalitions, IRI also works to engage Haiti's most promising, but underrepresented constituencies in the political process: women and youth.
In partnership with a national, multi-party women's political advocacy group (COHFEL - Coalition of Haitian Women Leaders), IRI trained female candidates in democratic leadership skills, message development and communication, internal party democracy and voter outreach.
In addition, COHFEL and IRI conducted a national poll to gauge the priorities and preferences of Haiti's female electorate. Priority issues were synthesized into a "Common Women's Platform" and elaborated in candidate trainings that addressed the ways in which elected officials can address these issues as legislators.
Approximately four out of every five Haitians is under the age of forty. Despite this majority, younger Haitians have yet to establish themselves among Haiti's political class. In conjunction with a local Haitian NGO, IRI sponsored the training of candidates under the age of 40 who are running for elected office. The seminars provided one young candidates across the party spectrum with the organizational and communications skills necessary to run a competitive campaign.
IRI conducts seminars across the country to sensitize Haitians to the political process and to encourage citizens to be informed voters. The trainings highlight civil society's role in the political process and encourage dialogue between party members and local community groups. The trainings involve representatives across the political party spectrum and are conducted in partnership with Haitian political grassroots advocacy organizations (CONOSPOL, OCODER, and FONADES).
Public Opinion Research
Haitians can rely on few polling organizations for accurate information about the political state of their country. Existing polling agencies contracted by private firms or international agencies are selective in releasing their poll data to the general public.
Haitians should be able to rely on a credible, indigenous polling institution run by Haitians for Haitians. IRI is working to establish an independent, indigenous public opinion polling center that will help focus the attention of political party leaders on the priorities of the Haitian electorate.
IRI launched an international and bi-partisan group in June 2005 known as the Haiti International Assessment Committee (HIAC). The committee is dedicated to talking to Haitians of various perspectives and backgrounds to determine how the international community can best support Haiti in the future. HIAC has traveled to Haiti on three missions since September 2005.
HIAC's members presently include former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), former Congressman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), former Canadian Minister of External Affairs, Barbara McDougall, former Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States and independent senator, Ambassador Christopher Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago.
Committee members have reached out to government officials and to the media to convey their impressions of the need for continued financial and technical assistance to Haiti. In particular, the committee has focused its recommendations on improving security, building institutions, economic growth, job creation, and infrastructure.